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The Insidious Nature of Emotional Abuse - July 2019

By Shauna Paynter

Woman in an emotional abusive relaionship

Is staying in an abusive relationship in hopes of change a healthy choice?

There are many reasons people choose to stay in an abusive relationship. One reason is, control by the abuser. This keeps us isolated, and over time, shame about the abuse begins to take over.

As time moves forward, the dysfunctional nature of the relationship lowers the victim’s self-esteem and personal confidence often causing withdrawal from friends and family.

This isolation fosters even more fear and dependency on the abuser. The victim’s sense of self diminishes and they begin to question their own sanity.

This is the scary part.

When you notice this happening, it is time to take a step toward yourself and reach out to the right people for help: By this I mean a professional.

  • Physiological Arousal Occurs During Abuse

We are biological creatures. As a result, our bodies become physically bonded to the abuser as a result of physiological arousal. The arousal occurs as a result of experiencing trauma.

This is a biological perspective that is backed by primary research by many scientists because it IS trauma you are experiencing. Trauma is stored in the body.

Fact: The longer you are in an abusive relationship the harder it is to leave. 

  • Shame and Isolation Fuel the Abuse

If you’re a victim of abuse, shame will often visit. You’ve been humiliated and your self-esteem and personal confidence have been undermined. Unfortunately, hiding the abuse from people close to you, often to protect the reputation of the abuser, fuels our shame. We find ourselves alone.

Abuser’s uses tactics to isolate you from friends and loved ones by criticizing them and making remarks designed to force you take sides. You’re either for them or against them. If the abuser feels slighted, then you have to take his or her side, or you’re befriending the enemy. This is designed to increase control over you and your dependence upon him or her.

Fact: As a human being you are deserving of love and respect as well as personal freedom. 

  • Take A Loving Step Toward Yourself

It’s essential to build outside resources and talk about what’s going on in your relationship. Keeping it secret will not serve you or your partner.

A professional is the best person, because you can build your self-esteem and learn how to help yourself without feeling judged or rushed into taking action.

Step 1: Identify “this is abuse“. Once you have done this, reach out for proper support.

Step 2: Set boundaries with your partner, and do not reward “bad behaviour”. This will most likely cause more strife. This is a sign. Pay attention.

Step 3: Get professional support. Focus on maintaining and augmenting your sense of self, because often you gave this up in the relationship.

Step 4: Get back to yourself. Continue on gaining a stronger grip on knowing what is best for you, you will be able to take the big actions required to safeguard yourself (and your children).

Fact: Setting boundaries with an abuser will increase strife and chaos. 

NOTE TO PARENTS: If you find yourself staying for the kids, give this a big second thought. Would you want your child staying in an abusive relationship? What are you teaching your child about relationships by staying in an abusive one?

Do you suspect your partner is a narcissist? If so, watch for more articles.




Shauna PaynterShauna's Bio: Shauna Paynter BSc, MA is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with over 16 years’ experience working with families, couples, adolescents and children. Safe & Sound Counselling Clinic is located at E-2009 Enterprise Way, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9S9. Online sessions are available. Call or Text today 250-681-1100. - Shauna Paynter Website


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